Sunday, July 19, 2015

Camping With Dogs

It's late.  It's chilly and you're cuddled close to your significant other under zipped together sleeping bags on the cold ground. The wind rattles the tent, and in an instant 60 pounds lands in between you.  Our pound puppy got startled and will wedge herself in between us for the rest of the night.  Forget rolling over and realize that one side will go numb and be sore in the morning.

Flash forward two years: our hand built trailer boasts a huge roof top tent with annex room.  Something disagreed with a belly and the same pound puppy stirs in the middle of the night.  I don't have children but I understand "mom hearing" and know that if my champion sleeper is stirring, something is wrong.  Cold, I climb down the latter, unzip the tent and let her out.  She returns, I climb up and go back to sleep only to be woken 20 minutes later.  A sour belly means no more soft tent bed, but sleeping on a pile of dog blankets with a sick dog.

Flash forward one more year: we upgraded to a SoCal Teardrop.  The pound puppy sleeps with us, still, taking up precious mattress space.  How is my fussy German Shepherd the easier dog in these situations?

Recently I read an amazing article written about Overlanding with Your Dog on Expedition Portal.  The writer hit the nail on the head. It is incredibly rewarding to camp with my dogs, it is the whole reason we made the transition from camping off the KTM 990 to going with a Jeep.

But there is a lot to take into consideration.

Bring extra.  Your dog will be more active while camping or on the road.  And my champion eater can be finicky while camping, so think about bringing things to encourage them to eat their food like canned pumpkin (which can also be great for sour bellies), coconut oil or peanut butter.

Snacks/Treats.  I didn't do this the first year.  My dogs always drop weight while camping because they are 100 times more busy.  The last few years, I have brought jerky and treats to supplement throughout the day.

We pack fleece blankets and light weight beds for them to snooze on.  Dogs can miss the comfort of home too.  Our pound puppy, Elly, (she's 7 years old but will always be my baby) does not have a nice undercoat like our shepherd, Rommel, does.  We were a little surprised with how chilly summer nights can be in Colorado and we modified a child's sweatshirt for her.  She actually prefers it to a dog coat, since it covers her belly.

Camping:  Most campgrounds will allow dogs, however, they must be leashed.  For us, this is a headache.  Our dogs are off leash trained and will remain at our sides.  But rules are rules and must be followed.  We do our best to avoid campgrounds as we prefer the seclusion that off site camping can give.  National Forests are great places to find these areas.

Parks:  National and State Parks generally do not allow dogs on trails.  Do yourself a favor and research the places you want to visit before leaving, and paying entrance fees.  We ran into a lot of "No Dogs Allowed" signs on beaches in California.  A few minutes on google before you leave can save you frustration.  National Forests are generally free of many restrictions and we spend a lot of time frequenting them.
Restrictions:  You have your dog with you.  If a park, store or restaurant doesn't allow dogs, be prepared to forgo that steak dinner, National Park or cute little shop.  If we're walking through town, Mike will stay outside the shop with the dogs.  We purposely camp in cooler climates, so leaving them to snooze in the Jeep with the windows down while we grab a quick bite to eat isn't the end of the world, but remember how quickly a car can get hot.  Think take-out dinners to eat at a picnic area.

Injury/Illness:  Thankfully, we've avoided a lot of this.  Elly caught a stomach bug and didn't feel well for a few days, but she bounced back.  Rommel pulled a muscle but nothing a little aspirin didn't cure.  Dogs can take aspirin and benedryl.  We keep a comprehensive medical kit in the Jeep.  Thankfully our brush with a rattle snake happened at home and not on the road - it may be a good idea to know where vets are along your route.

Know Your Dog:  Every dog is different.  Not every dog likes other dogs, can be trusted off leash, is easily susceptible to injury, allergy or illness.  Sometimes the pooch should stay home with a friend.  Our old man (miss you Bear dog), stayed with a friend his last few years while we went camping.  His advanced age and sore bones couldn't handle the stress of our long trips. 

Elly can get really grouchy after a few days camping from lack of rest.  Realize that camping is rough on your four-legged companions too.  Maybe that strange child shouldn't be allowed to pet your normally friendly pooch.  If that means being brutally honest with a naive stranger, so be it.

Our dogs are family.  They have gone everywhere with us since they were puppies.  We have spent many many hours training them to be on leash, off leash, voice trained, and socialized.  I am proud every time a stranger marvels at how well behaved our "kids" are.  We understand that traveling with a dog impacts not only us but others.

We take the good and the difficult (because none of it is bad) and will always travel and camp with our dogs.  Elly and Rommel enrich our camping experience forcing us out of the Jeep to run a field, trail or beach.

Have dog.  Will travel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cayucos - Our Haven

We woke to the sound of traffic.  Normally I wouldn't classify traffic and a good sound to wake to, but that meant the road was open.  As we were on the side of the road, the most we did was brush our teeth.  Clouds hung over the coast, and I was hesitant to be optimistic for the day ahead.

We passed several beach access points, and stopped at what I can only assume was not an actual access point.  The dogs did amazing being cooped in the Jeep the day prior.  They had an excess of energy to burn and absolutley loved their first romp in the Pacific ocean.  It was still gray out, but after a few lung fulls of ocean air, I was feeling refreshed.
Just up the road was a colony of elephant seals snoozing on the beach.  The males were busy fighting loudly in the surf while the ladies napped.

Mike wanted breakfast and coffee so we stopped in Cayucos.  We found the Divine Street Cafe; it was wonderful.  I had the best Chai Latte I've ever had and enjoyed a fresh yummy breakfast.  Their patio boasted a lovely garden, full of succulents.  Actually the whole town was full of succulents.

We grabbed the dogs and walked the street and found out quickly that this is the beach town for us: a dog loving, no fuss community.  Main street was small, but had just the right amount of shops and eateries.  Dogs were allowed everywhere, shops, patio restaurants, and most importantly the beach.  After walking the main road, the decision was made: we got a room at a beach dive who allowed dogs and would call this town our home for our last night of the trip.

After booking our room, we walked across the street to the beach and played for a while.  At this point, Elly was pretty much done for the day and just wandered about, but Rommel was in heaven.  The sun came out and we finally played in the ocean under blue skies.

After play time, everyone retired to the room for showers - dogs included.  We lounged before having an early dinner at the Sea Shanty across the street.  Elly and Rommel were allowed to nap at our feet during dinner, the waitress was sweet and efficent and the food was great.  We lounged for a while before heading back to the beach for sunset.

After the sun sank below the horizon, we went back to the Sea Shanty for dessert, another great waiter and huge peach cobblers.  After the hell that yesterday was, today was amazing.  The ocean air makes me feel nostalgic.  Cayucos does not boast rides, boardwalks, or shopping.  Cayucos offers you the ocean so you can find peace by the sea.

We turned in early, woke early and had breakfast and Chai at Divine Street again.  We had not left and already planned on returning.  Reluctantly, we loaded up in the Jeep and started our east bound journey home. All too soon, the ocean disappeared and the desert came into focus.  We were stuck in LA traffic for hours and our 9 hour drive turned into an 11 hour drive.  Temperatures rose and spirits sank.

Small pieces of this trip ranked in my top ten but collectively, California was fussy, busy and the drives from one point to another too long.  I will return to Yosemite, to the Giants, and most certainly back to Cayucos.  I will keep the peace left inside me from Cayucos for as long as I can before the grind invades and wears me down.

A simpler life is out there...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Long Long Frustrating Day on the Road

Mike played with the dogs early in the morning and snapped more amazing shots of the lake.  I think I'm rubbing off on him.  After breakfast, camp was packed and we bid adieu to our camp pals.  At this juncture, Mike and I headed west towards Big Sur and they went east, making their way home.

And a not-so-quick video:

We aired up at the staging location and said our goodbyes.  Little did we know that this would be a day where minimal planning and research would bite us in the butt.  We hit Highway 1 and made our way south along the coast.  Clouds lingered over head and the sun sank quickly.  We found no easy National Forest access.  Every campground was full or did not allow trailers.  Hotels/motels did not allow dogs, were booked up or did not provide space to park our trailer.

They say pictures are worth 1,000 words.  The shot I took of Elly 1/2 way through the day perfectly summarizes how we felt.

It got dark.  It got late.  At 10:00PM we stopped in a wide spot, snacked on cheese and crackers and fed the dogs.  We were aiming for the next town south.  We would not make it.  Highway 1 was closed to through traffic for construction over night.  We camped on a wide spot right on the road, along with countless other travelers stuck in the same position.  Irritated, we turned in for a restless night after midnight.

Today started full of promise and ended on a sour note.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Day on the Trail - Ellis Point


Quite a bit of traffic, both Jeep and ATV passed camp.  But everyone else seemed to immediately head to the east Rubicon trail entrance.  We had other plans - Ellis Point. We went up!

We had three different maps in the Jeep.  None of them agreed with one another.  We got turned around, backtracked but finally passed a single Jeep who assured us we were on our way to Ellis Point.

The air was crisp and rich with pine scent, and we finally had bright blue skies.  Today was perfect.  The last bit of road to the point was narrow and complex.  We took GoPro video but I haven't edited it yet.  This view was incredible.  Mountains on one side, and massive Lake Tahoe on the other.

My little hiking/bouldering partner kept up the steep incline to the peak. (8700ft)
We enjoyed a snack at the Jeep then headed back down to camp.  In Arizona you can easily time yourself via the sun, not in California.  The sun stays up much later.  It was nearing dinner, and without a proper lunch in our bellies, we descended back towards Miller Lake.

Mandy whipped up another awesome camp dinner, we played Chinese Checkers, ate smores and battled mosquitoes before turning in. 

These are the days....